November 19, 2009
LIMA — Knowing how to stop the financial exploitation of the elderly starts with recognizing they are victims of a crime, a former law enforcement investigator said Thursday.
David Kessler, an independent trainer and consultant, told attendees at a seminar hosted by PSA 3 Agency on Aging, there is a perception problem when it comes to elderly citizens who are swindled out of their life savings.
“The problem with these crimes is we recognize these crimes differently than other crimes against the elderly. We tend to blame the victim because they should have known better, or it’s their fault for falling prey to a scam artist,” Kessler said. “If that same person had been robbed or their home burglarized, we’d never yell at them and blame them. We really don’t know the level it’s at because it’s so underreported across the country because of the shame factor plus they are afraid their family or friends are going to think they’re stupid or yell at them.”
Kessler said predators target their victims and work to isolate them from their comfort zone in order to gain their trust. Financial exploitation is a growing problem, but it’s rarely reported.
“Very rarely does the victim come out and say, ‘I’m a victim.’ It’s usually stumbled upon by the bank, by someone who looked in their parents’ checkbook or savings book and saw large withdrawals coming out of their accounts,” he said. “The victims very rarely come forward like they would in any other crime. They are more likely to come out with someone knocking down their mailbox than they would for a $100,000 fraud crime.”
Kessler has seen the impact firsthand. His father, a decorated World War II veteran, was a victim.
“They usually say, ‘I thought I had a buddy,’ ” Kessler said. “That’s how it starts.”